Sunday, August 20, 2006

Effect of Perceived Values

In my experience there has been a driving factor, a mindset of those who make the purchasing decisions and are not necessarily technically knowledgeable, that the value of an item somehow equates to the money spent acquiring it. A company I worked for years ago catered to this mindset by way of pricing their product according to factors such as speed, capacity, and price of the target computer. The same software was delivered to all customers, but the understanding was that owners of computers would somehow expect software to be valued in relation to their computer. Owners of expensive computers would expect to have to purchase expensive software for it, and distrust something viewed as too cheap, whereas owners of lower priced systems would not want to pay as much for the software by the same token.

Times have changed but the value/price mindset continues. One place I was at a few years ago seemed caught up in the mindset. They hired a young DBA whose expertise was mostly in Visual Basic and SQL Server, and on his recommendation spent a lot of money on hardware and software, dedicated high-end server system, workstation systems, etc. I didn't know then some of the things I know now, and I'd have come up with a rather less pricey solution if asked today. Back then I probably would have come up with yet a third solution involving mostly development on my part and little if any
hardware investment. Shortly after that they started going down the open-source path with Apache and Perl. They probably would have arrived at MySQL or something similar in time, but a corporate mindset is a hard thing to break.

The idea of switching to an open source database for a web application has a lot to do with highering a web experts and then acquiring for him the tools he requests to fulfill his job. But still the web system is viewed as separate from the 'real' data processing, somehow inferior. The OS database is no less efficient or reliable, of course, but unless that is understood by managers or decision makers it matters little. There may be a slow increase over time, the occasional rogue department that switches over, but it's counter to the corporate culture of volume license deals with large software vendors. A lot remains to be seen how the landscape continues to unfold, but there are signs that times are changing, mindsets are changing.

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